Many runners dream of competing in the Boston Marathon, but for Lt. Col. Jason Hearn, the race is also an opportunity to give back to an organization that has supported the country’s military personnel for more than 75 years.
Hearn, who is stationed at Carlisle Barracks, is one of four runners on a fundraising team representing the United Service Organization in the 26.2-mile marathon on Monday. The group’s goal is to raise $13,000 each for a total of $52,000.
Hearn said this is the first year the USO has received four starting positions at the race, which will raise awareness as well as funds for the organization.
“I was truly honored to be selected by the USO to run in this, their inaugural running of the Boston Marathon. They asked if I was interested, and of course I said yes,” Hearn said. “It’s an excellent opportunity to help the USO, who has always helped service members around the globe, and of course it gave me the opportunity to run the Boston Marathon, which is a dream for many runners.”
Hearn, who has served in the U.S. Army for 24 years, was recommended for the fourth and final spot on the team by a friend. He will join three other U.S. Army representatives from Boston, Hawaii and Washington on the team.
“I was recruited by a friend of mine who knew I was in training for the Washington, D.C., marathon,” said Hearn, who has completed more than 40 full and half marathons, as well as numerous other races and triathlons, since he started running competitively in 2008.
But when Hearn takes his place among some 35,000 runners at the starting line in Boston, it will be a dream come true.
“The Boston Marathon is the granddaddy of marathons in America,” he said.
Hearn said he began running while stationed in Hawaii when a friend encouraged him to participate in a “little trail run” through locations used for the filming of such movies as “Jurassic Park.”
He said he later learned that the “little trail run” was actually the XTERRA World Championship Trail Half Marathon, and — after his friend broke his ankle shortly before the start of the race — he recalled feeling “intimidated, outclassed, undertrained, inexperienced and frankly scared.”
But the experience opened the door to the sport of running, and Hearn said he was hooked.
Today, he and his wife, Kelly Steele, who also serves in the U.S. Army, are avid runners. In fact, he said they celebrated her 40th birthday in 2014 by running in the Las Vegas Marathon, where they finished “slightly above the middle of the pack” in a field of 33,000 runners.
Their three children, a 13-year-old daughter and 11- and 8-year-old sons, also enjoy running as well as soccer.
His goal at the Boston Marathon is four hours, an average time for amateur runners, he said.
He finished his last marathon, in Las Vegas, in 3 hours 55 minutes.
“Like running is to me, the USO is the sanctuary for the U.S. military ... always there, always warm, always welcoming,” he said. “So for me to have the ability to combine these two sanctuaries of mine and be able to give back to the USO and help shed some light on a wonderful organization to folks that may not be already aware of the great things they do for our military, is truly, truly an absolute honor.”
Hearn is more than halfway to his goal of $13,000.